Many teachers assume that “classroom management” means trying to control student behavior through rules and enforcing consequences. But my experience is that truly effective classroom management techniques prevent discipline problems before they occur by creating a classroom that is engaging and comfortable. It’s really more about the teacher’s behavior than the students’ behavior!

In my new book, Master Classroom Management in Eight Weeks, I’ve identified the eight critical steps to learning: getting attention, keeping attention, engaging students, teaching the lesson, getting participation, giving directions, communicating, and transitioning. These are things teachers do all day, every day.

When they are done well, the teacher is managing the classroom. We’ve all seen this—a well-managed classroom just seems to just hum along!

MCMcoverLoResClassroom management starts with getting the students’ attention. If you can’t get their attention, you’ve lost before you’ve begun. Teachers often try to get their students’ attention by standing at the front of the classroom and saying something like, “Class, I need your attention right now.” This is an entirely auditory cue, and it may not be effective with students whose preferred learning modalities are kinesthetic or visual. (Plus, I think it’s a little wimpy.) I recommend using a variety of signals to get your class’s attention. When you teach specific signals for attention to your class, they learn that when they hear and see the signal, the teacher means “pay attention to me!”

One signal that works for many age groups is the Cross Clap. Here’s how to do it:

1. Stand in front of the class with a big smile, quickly making eye contact with as many students as you can. Your face should convey the message, “This is going to be fun!”

2. Hold your hands out, one above your head, one straight out in front of you, with both palms facing inward.MCMcoverLoRes

3. Say to the class, “Every time my hands cross, you clap.”

4. Switch your hands vertically in front of you, so that the hand above your head moves down, and your lower hand moves over your head.

5. The students should clap each time your hands cross each other in the middle.

6. After three or four repetitions, start moving your hands, but trick the students by quickly stopping your hands from crossing. The students will clap anyway, and since it is a break in the pattern, they will laugh.

7. Now that you have the students’ attention, begin to give your directions.Make sure to explain and practice the Cross Clap (and any other new signals for getting attention) with your class before using it in class so students understand its purpose and respond to it. It’s a great way to bring a little fun into your classroom while keeping control of the group.

evanskiphotoDr. Jerry Evanski has been a teacher and administrator for over thirty years. An award-winning educator, he created and taught the Certification in Brain-Based Learning for Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan. Evanski has written several books and gives workshops and keynote addresses on the topics of brain research, creativity, team building, school discipline, and classroom management.